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Archive for April 12th, 2011

Fukushima reactor contamination zones. Source US Department of Energy

Fukushima nuclear complex goes from bad to worse

by DarkSyde for Daily Kos

Tue Apr 12, 2011 at 09:35 AM EDT

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor complex appears to have gone from bad to worse, in part due to continual aftershocks and a small fire Monday morning. That nation’s nuclear safety agency will raise the crisis level from five to seven, putting it in the same category as the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and the danger zones could widen. The WaPo reports:

The plant’s debilitated reactors face constant threat of strong aftershocks, and the latest on Tuesday morning — a 6.4-magnitude temblor — caused a brief fire at a water sampling facility near Daiichi’s No. 4 reactor. The Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the facility, said that the critical process used to cool the hot fuel rods had not been interrupted, and radiation levels showed no signs of change. A level 7 accident, according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is typified by a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects.”

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A Look at the Cuts in the New, Leaner 2011 Budget

Firedoglake-  By: David Dayen Tuesday April 12, 2011 6:35 am

he House Appropriations Committee released the final 2011 continuing resolution text, which reflects the agreement between Congressional leaders and the President. You can view a summary of the CR and the list of final program cuts. Or, if you’re daring, you can read the full text.

First of all, there’s a 0.2% across-the-board cut to all agencies and accounts. That’s for starters. The Obama Administration did engage in some sleight-of-hand to get to the $38.5 billion in cuts, however.

The full details of Friday’s agreement weren’t being released until late Monday when it was officially submitted to the House. But the picture already emerging is of legislation financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially “score” as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.

…the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families […]

For instance, the spending measure reaps $350 million by cutting a one-year program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices. Another $650 million comes by not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed that same year. And just last Friday, Congress approved Obama’s $1 billion request for high-speed rail grants — crediting themselves with $1.5 billion in savings relative to last year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. The savings are awarded year after year.

Now this all looks to be true, except for high speed rail, which really is a reduction and a painful one. But because the budget imposes a lot of cuts in a small area, you could also write a story that reads like this:

The spending bill would maintain the maximum Pell grant award for low-income students at $5,550. But it would end a new Pell grant program for summer school students, saving hundreds of millions of dollars.

President Obama successfully resisted Republican efforts to take all federal money from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. But the spending bill cuts money for the program that finances many family-planning services provided by Planned Parenthood and other organizations, Title X of the Public Health Service Act. The appropriation would be reduced to $300 million, from $317 million, Congressional aides said.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which has been in the cross hairs of the newly empowered House Republicans, took one of the largest hits, according the House appropriations documents.

The agency’s budget under the agreement is reduced by $1.6 billion, or 16 percent from last year’s level. Specifically, funding levels for Land and Water Conservation Fund programs were reduced 33 percent.

MORE HERE

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Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.

Joseph E. Stiglitz | Vanity Fair | May 2011

THE FAT AND THE FURIOUS The top 1 percent may have the best houses, educations, and lifestyles, says the author, but “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.” Illustration by Stephen Doyle May 2011

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

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